Fake nail
Photo: Lisa Shin
We have no problem with faking it—beautywise, at least. The blonde streaks in our hair aren't from the sun. And we rarely leave the house without a couple of coats of mascara. When it comes to nails, though, we've always left well enough alone. We thought fake nails would look glaringly artificial. But then we asked a few of the women we know with gorgeously groomed hands how they keep their nails so even, glossy, and strong. And this is what they said: "Acrylics." "Gels." And "Fiberglass wraps."

Suddenly tempted, but concerned about the effects of fakes on our nails, we decided to launch an O investigation. We grilled manicurists on techniques, quizzed doctors on safety, and dispatched intrepid staffers to nail salons to test out various options. Read on for the good—and bad—news about fake nails, including...